Thursday, April 1, 2010
Last Friday was UGA's annual Red Clay Conference. This student-organized conference is always a blast, and I often have the honor of moderating a panel. The conference gets its name from the red Georgia clay, and the theme is always environmental. This year's theme was "Three States, One River: Exploring the Tri-State Water Dispute." The three states are Alabama, Florida and Georgia, and the river is actually a river system, the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, Flint.
I wasn't able to stay for the whole day, but in the morning I sat in on a fascinating presentation by participants in a stakeholder negotiation process that is happening alongside the (inevitable, it seems, for these types of water resource disputes) litigation.
Then I moderated a panel called "Is Atlanta Really the 800 Pound Gorilla?" As you might imagine, this is a loaded question. There is much controversy in the region about how to allocate water resources to provide drinking water for Atlanta, water for power generation for Alabama, and sufficient water supply to protect the ecosystem (and fishing industry) in Florida. Our distinguished panelists included the lawyers who represent Atlanta and the State of Georgia in current litigation over Lake Lanier (which until a recent court decision was a primary water source for several counties and municipalities in North Georgia.) Needless to say, it was a lively discussion. My friend and colleague Gil Rogers from Southern Environmental Law Center was an audience favorite, and not just because he does comedy improv in his off hours. SELC has done some great work on the tri-state dispute over the years. At any rate, all the panelists were incredibly articulate, passionate, and interesting.
The keynote speaker was Joseph Dellapenna of Villanova University School of Law who spoke about potential ways forward in the dispute. The most interesting, and least practical, option he discussion was that the US Supreme Court could settle the dispute if it was asked to exercise original jurisdiction over a dispute between states. (Blast to Civil Procedure past, anyone?) However, since they've been litigating that case since the 1920s, that's probably not the most expedient solution.
Jamie Baker Roskie